Exciting news out of Paris, where our friends and partners at Belleville Brûlerie have debuted a new coffee bar serving all-day coffee, beer, food, and wine. Located between the Canal Saint Martin and Belleville neighborhoods, La Fontaine de Belleville is the first-ever coffee bar for the Paris roasting brand served in top cafes like Holybelly, CREAM, Melali Coffee Riders, and many more places we've featured in our Paris coverage here on Sprudge. “We're lucky to be in a beautiful corner café space that has been a operating café since 1915,” says Belleville co-founder David Nigel Flynn. Inside the space they're serving natural wines from top producers, a couple of beautiful French beers, an assortment of -tifs (both appér- and diges-), plenty of food, and of course coffee, all of it modeled on the classic Parisian sidewalk cafe.
Our own co-founder Jordan Michelman caught up with Flynn from Paris after a whirlwind opening week.
First, some basic questions—how large is the new space? What is its full street address? What will your hours be?
The main café space is ~60m2 with a separate kitchen. The street address is 31-33 Rue Juliette Dodu, 75010 Paris. We will be serving continuously from 8am. Last call is at 10pm and we will close a bit later as people finish their drinks.
Describe the overall concept for La Fontaine.
A traditional French cafe (but with great coffee). We have been talking about a French sidewalk café serving great coffee for a long time. It’s a bit ironic that despite the development of the specialty coffee scene here in Paris over the past few years there were very few (if any) traditional cafés serving great coffee. La Fontaine de Belleville is an attempt to fill that gap. This means we’re open all day every day serving great coffee alongside great food, wine, beer, and aperitifs.
This is your first cafe, but Belleville is an established roasting brand—what is the thinking behind making that jump?
We knew from the start that Belleville would be more than just a roasting brand although we weren’t sure exactly what our retail presence would look like at the time. We’ve always been obsessed with the idea of sharing: sharing great coffee, great service, and the café project is an extension of that.
At Belleville, we’re really interested in exploring different formats for sharing great coffee other than the now-global coffee shop format. The weekend roastery boutique was our first attempt at this and we were surprised at how it allowed us to present Belleville to a different audience that didn’t necessarily frequent the coffee shops we supplied. La Fontaine de Belleville is the next step, and we’re hopeful that it will allow us to share great coffee with even more people.
What is this cafe inspired by?
La Fontaine de Belleville is inspired by Parisian sidewalk cafés. It's a format that everyone in Paris is very familiar with, although it takes slightly different forms in different neighbourhoods. We took inspiration from many cafés in Paris—famous and not—as well as the history of La Fontaine itself. Taking over a space that has been an operating café for over 100 years is a new experience for us, but it’s also a huge source of inspiration. We found out from friends in the jazz scene here that the Fontaine used to be a major after-hours jazz spot years ago. While we won’t be open late night, we are going to have a live music program, and we kicked it off with a concert by our friend Hermon Mehari at our inauguration party.
Please tell us more about the food and wine you're serving.
Food, wine, and beer are all part of this café. We assembled a small list of (for the most part) natural wines for the café working with our friends in the wine industry. At any given time we will have 3 white wines and 3 red wines by the glass, at the moment those include “A toi Nous”, an 100% Grenache from Andrea Calek in the Ardéche region, and a Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire from Domaine Landron Chartier. Like many coffee industry people, we’re big wine fans and it’s been a lot of fun to apply our palates to something other than coffee.
For food, we worked with Madison O’Mara (discretely behind the food menu at a number of coffee shops here in Paris) to put together a menu of simple French brasserie food. Among other things we’re serving pain perdu and pain d’épices (spice cake) for breakfast and a classic croque monsieur and ham and butter baguette sandwich at lunch. In the evening, we’re super-excited to be serving rillettes and paté from our friends at Épicerie Ô Divin up the street from the Belleville roastery and a selection of other charcuterie and cheeses.
It’s worth a mention that we’re also serving some great beer from craft breweries Outland and Deck & Donohue just outside of Paris, and a wide range of apéritifs and anisées just in case wine, food, and coffee wasn’t enough.
It’s been a lot of fun. Oliver’s articles really lit a fire under the French press, and turned attention to good coffee, it gave a big boost to the nascent coffee scene at the time. More than just coffee, the restaurant scene as a whole in Paris has undergone a lot of changes over the last few years and it’s been a privilege to get to be a part of it. While the general conception has been that Paris has always had great food (and to some extent that’s true), the last few years have been something of a revival of the Parisian restaurant scene. It’s amazing to be a part of this renewal and to play a small part in the continuing tradition of Parisian restaurants.
What is the neighborhood for your new cafe like?
La Fontaine de Belleville is sandwiched between the Canal Saint Martin and Belleville on a small square. It’s a neighbourhood with a semi-industrial past (the Exacompta paper factory is still located just down the street along the canal) that has experienced a lot of change over the last few years as the canal has become a popular leisure spot. We’re a little bit off the canal and in a small corridor that includes some great restaurants and bars tucked away along the side streets. It’s a neighbourhood where a good portion of the Belleville team live and hang out so we’re excited to be a part of it as a café.
Did you work with a design team for this space? Can you share anything with us about the choices you've made for espresso machines, furniture, and such?
The design for the space was done in house. We were able to take over a beautiful corner café space that has been a operating café since 1915 so there was a lot to work with. Our goal was to update the space and clean it up without fundamentally transforming it or losing any of its inherent charm.
While we didn’t hire in a design team, we had the opportunity to work with some great artisans for the space and a few definitely deserve a mention. Our glass chandeliers come from Omer Arbel and Bocci Lighting (also present in our roastery). Ged Palmer, our longtime graphic designer and sign painter, came down from London to hand letter some gold leaf to the doors and windows as well as apply the finishing touch to our terrace tables. Our terrace chairs were custom-made by Maison Gatti (in business hand-making rotin chairs since 1920) just outside of Paris. Working with these talented people (and others) was a real pleasure and I think their attention to detail really shows through when you’re in the café.
As far as coffee equipment goes our filter coffee service is batch brewed on a Marco BRU and we will soon be serving the entire Belleville menu using a Marco undercounter system and Clever Coffee Drippers. For espresso, we have a gravimetric La Marzocco Linea PB paired with a Mazzer Robur E grinder. We will also be pulling allongés, the French equivalent of the lungo, with a Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder and the Linea.
Has good coffee in Paris plateaued, or is it still just getting started?
It’s probably not a shock that I think good coffee in Paris is just getting started! There is a real value attributed to flavour in French culture. It’s not snobby to think that a wine (or a meal, or coffee) should be more expensive because it tastes better, and I think this creates a pretty fertile ground for exploring different ways of presenting great coffee to people.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy Cafes Belleville.